By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD – It seems like yesterday – a phrase that will surely make you sound old – but it's now 27 years ago when a population boom in the county led to the split of Effingham County High School.
South Effingham High School opened in 1996 and a football rivalry, among the most anticipated in the state, took root.
The Rebels and Mustangs will meet for the 30th time Friday night and proud communities will be squeezing into the Corral to attend.
"I tell my players who haven't been a part of this to look around, take (the atmosphere) in and then go play football," SEHS first-year coach Loren Purvis said.
It's sound advice from a coach who was part of the Mustangs' last win over the Rebels – a 41-27 victory in 2020.
ECHS, which holds a 17-12 advantage in the rivalry, has won three straight games in the series since 2020 by a combined score of 73-3.
The Rebels rolled last season, 29-3.
But Guyton is giddy about the Mustangs' chances after starting the 2023 season with three straight wins. ECHS comes in with a 1-3 record, including a surprising 20-13 setback to Southeast Bulloch.
"We didn't do ourselves any favors with a missed field goal and PAT and a bunch of dropped passes (against SEB). We made a ton of mistakes," said Rebels coach John Ford the morning after the game. "We're going into region play so all our goals are still out there. You want to play good teams to prepare you for the region and I feel like we did."
The last time out, South survived a wild 52-36 game with Bradwell Institute, but not totally unscathed. The Mustangs will be without Purvis and key playmaker Ashton Troutman for the game.
Troutman, a safety/wide receiver, was flagged for targeting (an automatic ejection and must sit out the next game – the ECHS game) and Purvis was tossed for arguing the call (the same penalty).
The decisions couldn't be appealed.
Purvis didn't want to comment but eventually said, "We would have liked to send in the tape for the Georgia High School Association to review, but that's not part of the process."
Purvis said he was still contemplating his game-day substitute on the sideline. A candidate with a lot of experience on his staff could be Mike Harper, who was South's first football coach in 1996.
"We have coaches the kids trust," Purvis said.